“I’m a car salesman,” Whaley says. “So, I’m this guy in front of people all the time.”
He first noticed a white discoloration on his dark skin in his mid-twenties.
“Two corners, right by the corners of my mouth, and my eyes, started appearing,” Whaley remembers.
Diagnosed with vitiligo, a disorder that causes the skin to lose its pigmentation. But, it took Whaley at least a decade to make peace with his changing skin.
“Cause I’m trying to tan it, mask it, put it away,” he says. “But it was popping up in more places.”
Same thing for Natasha Pierre McCarthy, whose skin started turning white at 28.
“And they said it was vitiligo,” she says. “And I said, ‘Vitiligo? What’s that?'”
It’s thought to be an autoimmune disorder, in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the cells that produce pigment in our skin.
The disorder may run in families, and some people say it can be brought on by extreme stress, or an injury to the skin like a bad sunburn.
Vitiligo not contagious, but Natasha says it sure feels like it sometimes,
“I’d go through the drive-thru to get something to eat,” Pierre McCarthy says, “They would not want to touch my hands. They would not want to take my money. Sometimes they’d give me my food for free!”
K.K. Brantley, just 12, is the group’s youngest member.
She began developing white patches on her face in preschool.
Now in the 6th grade, she says navigating middle school can be tough.
“I was walking by by some 7th graders,” Brantley says. “They were in detention, I guess. And I was walking by to go get my lunch, and I hear one of the kids go, “Hey, Michael Jackson!”
The pop star reportedly sufferer from vitiligo.
K.K. has learned to turn the other cheek.
“I don’t really care what the other kids say about me because my mom used to tell me I’m beautiful, no matter what,” she says.
Vitiligo is thought to affect about 2 to 3 percent of the U.S. population.
It tends to hit people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Sometimes, it affects children.
“There are three million people in the US alone with vitiligo,” says Pierre McCarthy. “65 million people all over the world with vitiligo. And it’s just, ‘Why are we not paying attention to this?'”
To raise awareness, the group created Vitiligo Bond, Inc., taking to Facebook to share their stories of what it’s like to live with their condition.
Perry Whaley wants people with vitiligo to embrace their skin.
Vitiligo Bond, Inc. will launch a nationwide tour with an event in Houston, Texas, later this month.
“I don’t want to come with vitiligo being a disorder in my life,” he says. “Because I’m taking it to a different level in reference to strength, and courage to other people. When they see me on Facebook or Instagram and they say, ‘Man, this guy can do it. I can do it!'”
The hope, the group says, is that more children like K.K. Brantley learn to be proud of their skin.
“This is our time to let the world that we, too, like to love,” says Whaley. “We, too, like to be a part of this community without being different.”
A diagnosis with the skin condition vitiligo forced me to re-think my basic beliefs about body image — and the messages about self-esteem and self-image I was passing on to my daughter.
Few people have seen my mother without makeup. Foundation, liquid eye liner, the works. She always applied lipstick throughout the day, even on airplanes. She wore it to clean the house. She wore it to the pool. I grew so accustomed to her flawless face, that as a child I was proud to tell my friends that my mother had no wrinkles.
Now, decades later, I have my own daughter. Cliche or not, I want things to be different for her. I have always kept primping to a minimum and made sure she saw me leaving home with a fresh face as often as with a made-up one. We have one mirror in the bathroom as well as an antique one that belonged to my grandmother, which, ironically, produces a warped reflection. Beyond a dialogue about the burden many women feel to look pretty, I felt it as important that my daughter not witness Mommy obsessing over her reflection.
Those principles were challenged when I noticed something happening to my face in early 2012. I saw the change in the car on a sunny day — and even then, I had to blink. Sitting in the passenger seat, my nose inches from the vanity mirror, tiny, white patches appeared beside my mouth. So slight, I wondered if toothpaste had bleached my skin.
I didn’t think anything of it for the next six months until, inexplicably, one patch grew overnight to the size of a nickel. “I’m sure it’s nothing,” I told my doctor, who squeezed me in that day. I heard the word for the first time then: vitiligo. By way of explanation, my doctor said, “You know, Michael Jackson.” My heart raced and I whispered, “Oh, sh**.”
Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition, which means that the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy pigment cells, or melanocytes, draining color from the skin. Approximately 1 percent of the entire population is affected by vitiligo, half of whom are diagnosed by the time they’re 20 years old, 95 percent by age 40. Though most commonly noticed in people of color, the condition does not discriminate.
Vitiligo can be linked to other autoimmune diseases, so the first order of business was to test my thyroid to make sure hormone levels were normal. Results came back negative. Since I am Caucasian, no one noticed the patches on my face, so this disruption to my otherwise normal life soon ended — until, months later, a quarter-sized spot appeared on my hand. Overnight, a second spot cropped up on my other hand.
At this time, I found myself on the precipice. Vitiligo had invaded my body — and I found myself obsessing about my appearance in a way I had made a point not to before my diagnosis. On the subway, at Coney Island, at the park, my spotted peers stood out like neon. For the first time in five years, I noticed vitiligo on the hands of my husband’s college friend. All of these moments induced sheer panic and “oh, sh**” constantly ran through my mind. Up until that point, my vitiligo had gone unnoticed. But what if mine spread like theirs had?
My hand, with some of the hallmark signs of vitiligo. (Photo courtesy of Mariko Zapf)
Researchers believe genetics play a role in the onset of vitiligo, as do physical and emotional stressors and exposure to environmental toxins. I have them all. My mother has rheumatoid arthritis, another autoimmune disease. I have used hair dye with phenol-laden, a chemical that may trigger vitiligo, for 15 years. Among life’s cr***ier events, my father died of cancer, which obviously was a stressful event for me. It is difficult to estimate how many hours I have spent pondering why me? On the conservative side, many.
While vitiligo’s origins are nebulous, a treatment protocol exists. It includes phototherapy (exposure to narrowband UVB light for several minutes, two to three times per week), topical applications (steroids and “immunomodulators,” which suppress the immune system) and, less commonly, skin grafts. Nada Elbuluk, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at the New York University Langone School of Medicine, said up to 70 percent of her patients respond to these treatments within three months, meaning affected areas show some signs of re-pigmenting. Regaining color fully or even mostly, however, is rare — precisely why so many of us suffer.
Beyond the conventional regime, alternative treatments purport to reduce vitiligo symptoms. I confess: I abandoned a steroid cream yielding no results and pursued some of these options. Within two years, I purchased supplements, amino acids, vitamins, Chinese herbs, omega-3s, and probiotics. I spent hours watching “how I cured my vitiligo” videos online and learning about inflammation, gluten, leaky gut, stress, sleep — you name it. At times, I was sure each had contributed to my worsening skin.
Elbuluk is well-versed on these alternatives. She opposes patients dabbling in them without support from their doctors. “There are significant risks associated with taking even the most benign of supplements that may, for instance, thin the blood or pose a health danger when mixed with other medications,” she explains.
It became clear that what I had been doing by cramming my medicine cabinet was akin to throwing spaghetti at the wall. Nothing stuck.
By late spring 2015, the spots had spread to my neck, shoulders, an elbow, a knee, feet, ankles, and much of my hands. It was time to cast a wider net. I stumbled on a case report concluding that an immune-suppressing rheumatoid-arthritis drug has shown potential in treating vitiligo. The author of the report, Brett King, MD, PhD, at Yale University School of Medicine, described vitiligo to me as a “cascade of signaling events in the skin that end with color loss,” and says that the medicine, tofacitinib citrate, “blocks that very first signal and without that … the other signals are not perpetuated.”
While King’s case report is based on one patient, his findings have helped advance the understanding of vitiligo. His results were especially compelling because the patient re-pigmented on her hands — a difficult area of the body on which to regain color, not to mention an area of my body I cannot avoid seeing. He estimates that it will take five years for a vitiligo-specific JAK medication to become commercially available and covered by insurance. If I prove to be among the 30 percent of patients who do not benefit from current treatment options, knowledge of a stronger option has done wonders for my anxiety.
Meanwhile, a family wedding was coming up in the summer of 2015. To ensure I projected an even skin tone, I spent 53 minutes chatting online with a makeup concealer specialist. $97 later, my once-light makeup bag gained some heft. During the wedding, my mood fluctuated between embracing the beauty of the event and feeling distracted, even eager for it to end. And all this while trying to hide my dismay, especially from my daughter.
Elbuluk and King each told me they are “excited” about the growing awareness of vitiligo — and as difficult as it can be to grapple with an illness that alters my appearance, I am too. Without education, compassion, and funding, medical advances are futile. Day-to-day, it will be a relief to know people may understand what is going on with vitiligo sufferers like me.
My brother lives overseas, which means I don’t get to see him very often. Peter was able to join our family this past December for the holidays and I took the opportunity to push up my sleeves and show him what was going on with me. He isn’t a particularly emotional person, so I mostly stuck to the facts. I got through the timelines and terminology and realized in that moment that I was just fine. I didn’t search his face for pity. I didn’t feel anxious. Most importantly, when the conversation shifted to a new topic, my mind moved with it. I didn’t indulge in even a moment of worry over what I might look like one day in the future. In hindsight, I realized I was one step closer to accepting what makes my body different.
The journey continues. For now, “fresh face” for me will include concealer. I will forgive myself for looking in the mirror a bit more often. I will continue to burst into song about mirrors being stupid when the concealer has faded. Showing my daughter that I love and accept myself, vitiligo and all, has been a powerful experience for both of us, even if she isn’t aware of that yet. Along the way, I will also let myself off the hook if some days I feel more self conscious than others. And by my 50th birthday, I look forward to the white spots being a thing of my past.
Thank you for your enlightening article on aloe vera and autoimmune disorders. My 10-year-old son has vitiligo and it’s spreading. He has had it from 2009. Can aloe vera gel be given internally? He had been taking the Forever Aloe Vera Gel 60 ml a day first thing every morning and applying aloe gel on the de-pigmented areas. Though it seems to have a positive effect on his GI tract and digestion, the vitiligo spots seem to be growing in size, and are becoming a major concern to us. We are worried. Please advise.
Globally, about one per cent of the population is affected by vitiligo, with males and females being equally affected.
Vitiligo is a long-term skin condition which is shown by the skin losing its pigmentation in patches. These patches of skin usually appear white and may even occur inside the mouth and nose. The cause of vitiligo is still unknown. However, it is believed to be due to genetic as well as autoimmune factors.
Vitiligo is a condition which results in the destruction of skin pigment cells. In some cases of vitiligo it starts on one side of the body and then gets worse and affects both sides of the body. However, the white patches may just be localised to one side of the body.
Unfortunately there is no cure for most people with vitiligo. Sunscreen and make-up are usually recommended. However, other methods such as steroids, creams, phototherapy and surgical procedures may also be recommended in certain cases. Although vitiligo is a condition which is not life-threatening or contagious, the condition can affect the way you feel about yourself.
In your son’s situation, I am not sure why you are not getting any good results. Many people have reported getting results by doing the same things that you have done with your son.
Aloe vera gel can be used both internally and externally. Aloe vera is the only natural remedy for vitiligo. Aloe vera has been known to soften and heal the skin and make the spots disappear. It is also used in many parts of the world because of the cell remediation as well as the cell regeneration properties. Aloe vera gel has a vast range of vitamins, including vitamin E, minerals and enzymes. When taken orally, aloe vera stimulates and strengthens the immune system.
I would suggest that you take your son to a doctor and have him properly checked out, as there may be other factors at play. Studies have shown that people with vitiligo may be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, for example, B12, folic acid and zinc. You could have him checked out for these. In addition, your son’s diet should also be as alkaline as possible with more fruits, vegetables, vegetable juices, yoghurt, fish, peas and beans, nuts and legumes. It is important to make sure that his bowel is kept clean.
Many teenagers struggle with body issues, but when Christiana Jones was 16 she was diagnosed with a rare skin disorder.
Now the Winnipeg woman has started a website to build an online community, like she wished she had when she was a teen, to help other people diagnosed with vitiligo.
“No one should feel uncomfortable about the skin that they are in,” Jones said.
Vitiligo is a skin disease that causes the pigment-producing cells in the body to stop working, resulting in blotches or patches of white skin.
Jones said there is not a lot of research around the disease or what causes it since it only impacts about one per cent of people.
Model Winnie Harlow on the red carpet at the MuchMusic Video Awards (MMVA) in Toronto, June 15, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (Mark Blinch/Reuters)
Most people know about vitiligo through Michael Jackson, who revealed he had it during an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 1993. Canadian model Chantelle Brown-Young, also known as Winnie Harlow, is also well known for being a vitiligo spokesmodel.
However, when Jones was growing up she said it was difficult finding people to talk to about what she was going through.
“A lot of people who have it end up going through a bit of a depressive spell once they’ve been diagnosed because it is a big change in appearance,” she said.
The splotches started on her chest but began to spread. Jones said it has actually covered her whole face now. To understand the changes, doctors recommended meeting other people with the condition.
“The issue with that though was I didn’t know anyone who had vitiligo,” she said.
Christiana Jones shows the pigment changes on her arm. (Submitted to CBC)
Jones found a couple of websites online but she said they only talked about experimental treatments and felt negative. She wanted something that made people feel comfortable and happy with their bodies.
“It would have helped a lot just to have that positive experience,” she said.
That’s why she started the page Spotlight Vitiligo to create an interactive online community fostering a “healthy body image.”
“I wanted to create a space that’s really positive and more focused on body positivity and helping people come to terms with their body image,” she said.
Jones said she is looking for people to join the community and contribute to an awareness video
The skin pigmentation disorder vitiligo has baffled the medical world for centuries. But a poison purveyor in Parwan Province claims he has cured thousands with ointments derived from scorpion and cobra poison.…
For thousands of health-seeking pilgrims, hope lies a 60-kilometre drive north of Kabul with homeopathic legend Mohammad Shirzad, purveyor of arachnid and reptile venom-based concoctions famed for curing vitiligo.
“He is a gift of God for the people of Parwan,” enthuses an old man encountered at the foot of the hill where the self-styled doctor’s clinic and home are located.
Shirzad lives on the edge of the quiet city of Charikar, vineyards snaking up the steep slopes towards his domain. As visitors reach the summit, they are greeted by verses of the Holy Quran inscribed on his door.
It is from here that he claims to have cured thousands of patients of the skin pigmentation ailment, using only homeopathic cures and creams derived from mainly scorpion but also cobra venom to eradicate blotches of discolouration.
Shirzad, a short, gently balding man with a grey moustache, appears in a white coat and ushers in visitors. Rich scents of nature outside are quickly supplanted by a pungent miasma of medical potions inside the premises.
“The mix is seventeen per cent poison and the rest is organic medicine made out of homeopathic plants,” says Shirzad, cutting to the chase about the ingredients used in his preparations. Seated at his desk, he tells how he developed the formulas on the basis of his 30 years of work at a serum-producing company in Iran.
“I received training from a German professor before the Islamic Revolution,” he goes on. “I studied how to make medications and I managed to make some for vitiligo from snake and scorpion venom.”
“The mix is seventeen per cent poison and the rest is organic,” says Shirzad.
The doctor’s patients receive treatment for just under a year, starting with a special forty-day diet, followed by a prescription of ointments. Sufferers of the condition come from as far as Germany, the UK and the US and pay 18 dollars for a consultation. Subsequent prescriptions cost around 100 dollars a month.
Shirzad says he has seen over 6,000 patients, including citizens of 36 countries, and that he cured 1,500 of them. If true, it is a feat indeed, since vitiligo, also known as leucodermia, continues to baffle western specialists.
Striking at any age and more prevalent in women, it is believed to be a psychosomatic condition, occuring when melanocytes, the cells responsible for skin pigmentation, die or are unable to function. Anxiety and alienation only worsen outbreaks of its white mark symptoms..
Prejudice towards sufferers
Patonee, a 13-year-old Afghan girl, has suffered from the condition for the last eight years. Her face and feet are full of such blemishes. The girl’s parents first took her to dozens of dermatologists, paying exorbitant prices, yet none of the prescribed medicines worked.
A typical affliction by vitiligo, which dermatologists say is more prevalent in women. (Photo: Sadat)
A family friend then referred Patonee to Shirzad, who has been treating the teenager for the last eight months. The marks on her body have since decreased by forty per cent, she says.
“The worst thing is the stigma,” Patonee said. “People wrongly believe that vitiligo is contagious. They are scared to shake hands with me or eat from the same plate.”
Shirzad believes overexposure to sunlight, bathing in stagnant water; anxiety and poor diet are the primary causes. Symptoms include constipation, baldness, white marks, esophagus pains and further anxiety.
Rozee Khan, another of his patients, says he developed vitiligo while working as a stonecutter in Iran. But the venom and herb concoction brewed by Shirzad is helping, he says.
During a 40-day prescribed diet, patients are barred from eating pepper, roasted food, beans, peas, cheese, cake, and exposing themselves to the sunlight. They must also quit smoking. But for treatment to be effective, the clinic needs a plentiful supply of venom donors.
A buck per stinger
Kill or cure. Venom from deadly scorpions is integral to the healing ointments prescribed to Shirzad’s patients
Shirzad usually has 1,600 scorpions to work with, keeping his stocks replenished by paying a dollar for each specimen locals bring to him in the summer, when the creatures are in plentiful supply. This year, however, the cold winter killed off his stocks entirely.
“There are over 2,600 types of scorpion in the world,” Shirzad said. “But I have none left – I will have to put an ad on Parwan TV.”
Unrecognized, say health authorities
Meanwhile, state-registered dermatologists like Fazel Ahmad Aatefi are scathing about homeopathic alternatives to conventional medication. “Treating vitiligo with scorpion poison is deceiving the people who have it and the many who so far referred [to Shirzad],” Aatefi said.
Officials at the Ministry of Health are also sceptical, noting that over 200 “unqualified doctors” operate across Afghanistan without having passed any ministry exams.
“I have never heard of an Afghan doctor who can cure vitiligo with scorpions,” said ministry spokesman Ghulam Sakhi Kargar. “However, the Ministry of Health’s certificate is open for all to sit.”
Despite being unknown to the Health Ministry, Shirzad’s waiting room is always full of patients. (Photo: Sadat)
Shirzad clearly feels the certification offered by the ministry has little bearing on his qualification to practice or his results.
“I have been working in Afghanistan more than ten years, I am very popular both nationally and internationally,” he says. “No one ever visited me from the Health Ministry asking for certificates or where I studied, and nor did I ever go to them.”
Qualified or not, he has plenty of positive patient testimonies to back him up, as well as a solid fan base in the local community: “If anyone is ever stung by a scorpion in Parwan then Doctor Shirzad is where you go,” adds the old man on the slope under the clinc.
And in a country that according to the World Health Organization has just two physicians for every 10,000 people, such a gift can only be appreciated
Due to vitiligo the lack of control over your body’s appearance can at times makes you feel helpless and devastated. However, food is one area where you can try to make some positive changes in your life that are likely to help control the spread of the disease. Although there is no particular vitiligo diet, a balanced, healthy blend of nutrition from all food groups can be a good way of revitalizing your skin and boosting your immunity, confidence and self-esteem
How to select a healthy Vitiligo Diet
– Vegetables and fruits on top. Antioxidants, phytochemicals, beta carotene in these bounties of nature support your immunity, promote healthy skin and may aid in the pigmentation process. Antioxidants and beta carotene neutralize free radicals and protect against their damage.
The major antioxidant nutrients are vitamins A, C, E, folic acid, polyphenolic flavonoids and some minerals like selenium, copper and zinc. Apples, bananas and citrus fruits are some great choices and must be included in your vitiligo diet. However, blueberries and pears should probably be limited or avoided as they contain natural hydroquinone, which are de-pigmenting agents.
Eating your vegetables lightly cooked and closer to raw is most preferable as it preserves their nutrients.
– Never let your Vitamins go. A couple of research studies across the globe have discovered that vitiligo patients may have vitamin deficiencies, especially of the B12 vitamin and folic acid.
You can replenish your body by eating vitamin-rich foods. Vitamin B12 is found in meat, poultry, eggs, soy milk, dairy products, fish, and shellfish. Folate, the natural form of folic acid, is found in fruits, dried beans and green vegetables. Ensure that you get enough vitamin D and C as they’re essential for healthy skin.
You can get vitamin D naturally from moderate sunlight exposure as directed by your doctor. Moreover, foods like oily fish, cod liver oil, liver, milk, eggs, cheese, margarine, some milk powders and yogurts and some cereals are fortified with it. Citrus fruits are your go-to option for ample vitamin C. Studies have shown that Folic acid and vitamin B12 work in conjunction with vitamin C to aid in the pigmentation process.
– Must Minerals. Copper, iron, zinc and calcium all play a role in the pigmentation process. Higher levels of zinc and copper have been shown to reduce premature greying hair. Low levels of both these minerals along with reduced iron levels have also been found in de-pigmented skin. Iron also has a role in the activation of tyrosinase which is an enzyme requiring copper and is essential in the pigmentation process. Zinc, an important mineral can be found in beef, shellfish, nuts, and legumes. Calcium, found in dairy products is another important nutrient for overall healthy functioning of your body which will ultimately impact your skin in a positive way.
– What you can avoid. Turmeric, used as a seasoning in Eastern foods especially, has been shown to cause problems for some people, so you might consider limiting or avoiding its use.
Vitiligo is the disease of the skin characterized by loss of normal color of the skin. It shows in the form of white or pinkish irregular patches on the skin. Vitiligo can be seen on anywhere on the body like forearms, upper back, neck, face shoulders, shins etc. However, Vitiligo is not the only disease characterized by appearance of white patches on the skin. There are many other skin conditions which represent as a white patch on the skin and they look like Vitiligo.
Disease conditions mistaken for Vitiligo:
Following diseases generally are mistaken for Vitiligo.
Tenia versicolor: This is caused by fungal infection. It is also called as Pityriasis versicolor. School going kids usually get affected by this condition. It shows itself in the form of white patch with fine dry scaly surface of the skin. Cheeks, face, back etc are the common site of affection by Tenia versicolor. It can develop due to oily skin, living in warm and humid surroundings and not maintaining personal hygiene.
Pityriasis Alba: This condition is also found in children. Generally, boys are more affected than girls. It represents itself in the form of white patch mostly on the face. This is most commonly seen in winter months and usually it is a self limiting condition. Cases with more severity need to consult an expert dermatologist. Have Vitiligo? Find your chances of recovery with our Curability test here.
Piebaldism: It is a congenital condition that means the disease is present at birth. It is an autosomal dominant disease characterized by the absence of melanocytes from the affected part of the skin. It presents itself in the form of scattered normal pigmented and hypo pigmented patches on the forehead.
Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis: This disease is characterized by multiple, rounded or tear shaped light colored patches that appear on the body parts that are exposed to sun. Like limbs, shin and forearm. It also affects the other body parts. Generally, people above the age of 40 years are affected by this disease.
White scars: The scar from any injury may leave a white spot on the skin after healing. At times it may look like Vitiligo. The nature and extent of injury determines the scar formation on the skin. If the melanocytes are destroyed completely then the scar may have a faulty pigmentation.
Leprosy: leprosy is a bacterial infection of the skin. In this condition light colored patches with loss of sensation and loss of hair is seen on the skin. Vitiligo is caused by loss or destruction of skin pigment called melanin. It is not caused by any infection.
Addison’s disease: It is a hormonal disorder caused by inefficiency of adrenal glands to produce enough amount of hormone called cortisone. It is characterized by darkening of the skin.
Scleroderma: In this skin condition there is hardening of the skin with shiny patches on them. The movement of the affected part is restricted.
Chemical leukoderma: exposure to certain chemicals causes hypo pigmented patches on the skin, this is called as chemical leukoderma. The patches look similar to Vitiligo patches.
Nevus anemicus: it is characterized by skin patches which are of different size and shape. They are paler than the normal skin.
Halo nevus: it is a kind of mole which is surrounded by depigmented ring. They develop around the existing mole. The exact cause of developing Halo nevus is unknown
Although Psoriasis and Vitiligo are both conditions that cause alterations to the skin, there are many differences in the causes and treatments for each.
Psoriasis affects approximately three percent of the world’s population and can be caused by a combination of genetic factors and external triggers, such as stress or injury to the skin.
Vitiligo affects about one percent of the world’s population and approximately 1.5 million people in the United States. There is no definitive cause of Vitiligo although many experts believe it is an autoimmune disorder.
Psoriasis is caused by the quick growth of skin cells. Under normal conditions, skin cells grow and fall off but when a person has Psoriasis, the skin cells grow very rapidly but don’t fall off, causing them to build up in places on the body.
Vitiligo is a discoloration of the skin that can happen in small patches or can cover large portions of a person’s body.
Psoriasis is a topical condition and can show itself anywhere on the body, although it is most common on the outside of the elbows, knees and on the scalp.
A person with this condition may experience a burning or itching sensation in the affected areas as well as dry cracked skin that may bleed. Psoriasis generally covers the body in patches that may look red and flaky, and can even affect the toenails or fingernails causing them to be ridged or pitted.
Unlike Psoriasis, skin affected by Vitiligo is unlikely to change texture, although some itching is possible. The affected skin cells will lose their pigment, causing them to turn white.
Although the depigmentation is more obvious in exposed areas, the most commonly affected areas of the skin are the face, hands and underarms.
Vitiligo occurs in three general patterns: 1) Focal: limited to one area, 2) Segmental: on one side of the body, or 3) Generalized: on different areas throughout the body.
Although there is no true cure for Psoriasis or Vitiligo, there are many available treatments to help decrease and soothe symptoms.
Many Psoriasis patients turn to prescription drug treatments which work from inside your body, although these are generally reserved with those who have moderate to severe Psoriasis or Psoriatic Arthritis.
Phototherapy is also a common treatment, in which the skin is exposed to ultraviolet light in an attempt to slow the skin cell growth. There are also topical treatments available.
All forms of Vitiligo treatment are done on the outside of the body as there is no prescription drug to help with treatment. A possible solution is the restoration of skin color through topical corticosteroid creams, however, this is more likely to be successful for smaller patches on the skin.
It is also possible to bleach the skin to match the depigmented sections using a topical cream but many patients affected by Vitiligo use concealers and cover-ups, like Zanderm, to hide the white patches.
Twenty-three new genes involved in risk for autoimmune vitiligo have been identified by an international group of scientists led by the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Vitiligo is a chronic condition in which melanocytes — the cells that make pigment — in the skin are destroyed.
As a result, white patches appear on the skin in different parts of the body. Similar patches also appear on both the mucous membranes, and perhaps in the retina. The hair that grows on areas affected by vitiligo sometimes turns white.
The cause of vitiligo is not known, but scientists have several different theories.
There is strong evidence that people with vitiligo inherit genes that make them susceptible to depigmentation.
The most widely accepted view is that the depigmentation occurs because vitiligo is an autoimmune disease — a disease in which a person’s immune system reacts against the body’s own organs or tissues.
People’s bodies produce proteins called cytokines that, in vitiligo, alter their pigment-producing cells and cause these cells to die. Another theory is that melanocytes destroy themselves.
Some patients have reported that a single event, such as sunburn or emotional distress, triggered vitiligo. However, these events have not been scientifically proven as causes of vitiligo.
A better understanding of the causes of vitiligo could also lead to breakthroughs in several other autoimmune diseases, including autoimmune thyroid disease, pernicious anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, adult-onset type 1 diabetes, Addison’s disease, and lupus.
“Our study doubles the number of known genes involved in risk for vitiligo,” said senior author Prof. Richard Spritz, Director of the Human Medical Genetics and Genomics Program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Prof. Spritz and co-authors conducted genome-wide association studies on 4,680 people with vitiligo and 39,586 control cases and found the genes that provide a framework for the genetic architecture and biological mechanisms of vitiligo and highlight relationships with other autoimmune diseases and melanoma.
The team is trying to identify causal mutations in these genes by using DNA sequencing and genetic studies involving a large number of vitiligo patients from various different ethnic groups. This study focused on subjects of European ancestry.
“One of the purposes of the genome project was to give us the tools to do more complicated disease analysis,” Prof. Spritz explained.
“What’s emerging in general for complex diseases is that it is changes in gene regulation rather than gene structure that are causes.”
The researchers also found associations between genes indicated in some of other autoimmune diseases and vitiligo, and while it remains uncertain whether they reflect shared or different causes, it offers promising areas for future research.
Did you see Dragons Den last Sunday? If you did you will be well aware of a new product called Vitiliglow, which received financial backing from Dragon Sarah Willers and soon to be entering the market. #Vitiligo is big news right now. Twitter went crazy after the show, with lots of sufferers dying to get their hands on this new product claiming to help improve the lives of the 1% of the population who suffer from this condition. This is all very exciting, but with products not due to hit the market until autumn, you may be left wondering what you do in the meantime to help your condition? Well Skin Camouflage can help.
Skin Camouflage are highly pigmented creams and powders specifically designed to be able to cover a broad range of dermatosis including vitiligo, psoriasis, eczema, acne, rosacea; as well as burns, scars, birthmarks and even unwanted tattoos. They are specifically formulated to provide a light to full coverage with only a thin layer of product needed, so should look and feel like you don’t have anything on your skin. They provide a long lasting coverage, up to 12 hours on the face and 2-3 days on the body without the need for reapplication. They are also smudge proof and water resistant so you are free to wash and swim without fear of removal. They also contain SPF, which is extremely important for sensitive skins and particularly for vitiligo where there is an absence of melanin and is thus prone to sun damage and can cause the vitiligo to spread.
But before we get into products and application, lets get back to basics…
What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a condition where areas of the skin lose their normal pigment and become white. It can appear in small patches, or for people with universal vitiligo can cover the whole body. The patches can be any shape or size and it is not uncommon for them to change shape or location. Vitiligo is often symmetrical, affecting both sides of the body, most commonly on the face and hands but can affect limbs, armpits, groins, genitals, as well as areas prone to damage from cuts and burns. Vitiligo affects people of all skin groups, of either gender, at any age. It tends to develop gradually over a number of years before reaching stability, for some people their natural pigment returns, but seldom completely.
What causes it?
The pigment that gives your skin its normal colour is called melanin and is made by cells known as melanocytes. In patches of vitiligo the melanocytes are absent. The cause of vitiligo is unknown but it is said to be an autoimmune condition whereby the body’s own immune system rejects some of its own cells (melanocytes) and destroys them, stopping melanin being produced and causing white patches to occur. It is thus common for thyroid disease and other autoimmune conditions to also be present in individuals with vitiligo. It is also a hereditary condition, with one in five sufferers knowing a member of their family who also has it.
Sadly there is no cure for vitiligo, although there are a number of treatment options such as topical creams, phototherapy, laser or surgical treatments, which can be discussed with your doctor or dermatologist. However, often no treatment will be required other than making sure you apply a good sunscreen and the use of skin camouflage.
Unfortunately vitiligo can result in the sufferer experiencing prejudice, as is the case in developing countries where vitiligo is confused with leprosy and thus a person is seen as a social outcast in their community. Luckily it is not as bad here and influential people like model Winnie Harlow who uses her condition to help raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with this disease helps. But for the many people who have to live with this condition; bullying, loss of self-esteem and confidence, depression and social anxiety is prevalent. Which is why skin camouflage is so beneficial.
Depending on the severity of the vitiligo, skin camouflage creams can either be applied directly to the depigmented skin; using fingertips to press and roll the cream into the skin, blending away the edges to match the colour of the surrounding skin. Or for larger areas and time constraints, it made be easier to rub a body camouflage cream like Dermablend Total Body Corrective Foundationacross the whole area, setting both with a fixing powder or spray. This will prevent the skin camouflage from smudging or rubbing off onto clothes. In order to establish the correct colour, product and method of application for your skin it is recommended that you seek advice from a Professional Skin Camouflage Practitionerlike myself. This will ensure you know how to apply and take care of your camouflage and achieve the best possible outcome.
Products designed to stain the skin like faux tans, can work very well for vitiligo, especially for the hands, where constant washing and scrubbing can unfortunately affect the durability of the skin camouflage cream. To avoid staining non-vitiligo areas make sure that you apply a barrier cream such as petroleum jelly to nails, and to the naturally pigmented margin of the skin where it meets the hypo-pigmentation. This will prevent a dark halo from appearing where the two areas meet. Depending on the difference in skin tone of the two areas, you may find (particularly for fairer skins), that you only require a half strength faux tan or tinted moisturiser to provide the coverage you need and achieve that healthy sun kissed glow. Tanning products are good for giving an all over body coverage and are much quicker and easier to apply, although at present they are only available for lighter skin tones. Always do a patch test before final application. For more information on specific products and methods of application, please read my blog post, fake tan for problematic skin.
– If you find that the skin camouflage feels too heavy it could be that you are applying it too thickly. Only a light application is needed to provide a good coverage. If you do however feel that it is not covering completely it is better to use two thin layers (set in between with powder), rather than one thick layer.
– If you get a halo or shadow where the two areas of vitligo meet, it may be necessary to apply a complementary colour first, before applying the natural skin toned camouflage to knock back that colour. In this instance consulting a Skin Camouflage Practitioner like myself is recommended, as they will be able to advise you which method of application is best.
– If you feel that the finish appears too matt you can apply a fixing spray over/instead of the fixing powder to give a more gloss like finish. Additionally, applying a fine application of bronzing powder over the skin camouflage will also help to make the skin less matt.